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Nutrition Labels and Obesity

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  • Jayachandran N. Variyam
  • John Cawley

Abstract

The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) imposed significant changes in the information about calories and nutrients that manufacturers of packaged foods must provide to consumers. This paper tests whether the release of this information impacted body weight and obesity among American adults. We estimate the effect of the new label using a difference-in-differences method. We compare the change before and after the implementation of NLEA in body weight among those who use labels when food shopping to that among those who do not use labels. In National Health Interview Survey data we find, among non-Hispanic white women, that the implementation of the new labels was associated with a decrease in body weight and the probability of obesity. Using NLEA regulatory impact analysis benchmarks, we estimate that the total monetary benefit of this decrease in body weight was $63 to $166 billion over a 20-year period, far in excess of the costs of the NLEA.

Suggested Citation

  • Jayachandran N. Variyam & John Cawley, 2006. "Nutrition Labels and Obesity," NBER Working Papers 11956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11956
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Kim, Sung-Yong & Nayga, Rodolfo M., Jr. & Capps, Oral, Jr., 2000. "The Effect Of Food Label Use On Nutrient Intakes: An Endogenous Switching Regression Analysis," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 1-17, July.
    4. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
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    1. repec:oup:revage:v:31:y:2009:i:1:p:2-20. is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:jfpoli:v:77:y:2018:i:c:p:71-80 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Jutta Roosen & Stéphan Marette & Sandrine Blanchemanche & Philippe Verger, 2009. "Does Health Information Matter for Modifying Consumption? A Field Experiment Measuring the Impact of Risk Information on Fish Consumption," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 31(1), pages 2-20.
    4. Stefanella Stranieri & Lucia Baldi & Alessandro Banterle, 2010. "Do Nutrition Claims Matter to Consumers? An Empirical Analysis Considering European Requirements," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(1), pages 15-33.
    5. Silvia Prina & Heather Royer, 2013. "The Importance of Parental Knowledge and Social Norms: Evidence from Weight Report Cards in Mexico," NBER Working Papers 19344, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Itzik Fadlon & Torben Heien Nielsen, 2017. "Family Health Behaviors," NBER Working Papers 24042, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Alois Stutzer & Armando N. Meier, 2016. "Limited Self‐control, Obesity, and the Loss of Happiness," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(11), pages 1409-1424, November.
    8. Pedro Gomis-Porqueras & Fidel Gonzalez, 2009. "The Role Of Uncertainty On U.S. Obesity: An Application Of Control Theory," ANU Working Papers in Economics and Econometrics 2009-506, Australian National University, College of Business and Economics, School of Economics.
    9. Kennedy Peter W, 2010. "Economic Incentives for a Healthy Diet: A Comparison of Policies in a Canadian Context," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-32, September.
    10. Cavaliere, Alessia & Banterle, Alessandro, 2008. "Economic factors affecting obesity: an application in Italy," 2008 International Congress, August 26-29, 2008, Ghent, Belgium 44324, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    11. Defago, Daniel & Geng, José F. & Molina, Oswaldo & Santa María, Diego, 2017. "Digestible information: The impact of Multiple Traffic Light nutritional labeling in a developing country," MPRA Paper 79678, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Kiesel, Kristin & Villas-Boas, Sofia B., 2013. "Can information costs affect consumer choice? Nutritional labels in a supermarket experiment," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 153-163.
    13. Banterle, Alessandro & Cavaliere, Alessia, 2009. "The social and economic determinants of obesity: an empirical study in Italy," 113th Seminar, September 3-6, 2009, Chania, Crete, Greece 90889, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    14. Kiesel, Kristin & Villas-Boas, Sofia B., 2009. "Can Information Costs Confuse Consumer Choice?---Nutritional Labels in a Supermarket Experiment," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt6st6d0rr, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
    15. Julie S. Downs & George Loewenstein & Jessica Wisdom, 2009. "Strategies for Promoting Healthier Food Choices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 159-164, May.
    16. Cavaliere, Alessia & De Marchi, Elisa & Banterle, Alessandro, 2013. "Time Preference and Health: The Problem of Obesity," 2013 International European Forum, February 18-22, 2013, Innsbruck-Igls, Austria 164754, International European Forum on System Dynamics and Innovation in Food Networks.
    17. Michele Cecchini & Franco Sassi, 2015. "Preventing Obesity in the USA: Impact on Health Service Utilization and Costs," PharmacoEconomics, Springer, vol. 33(7), pages 765-776, July.
    18. Just, David R. & Mancino, Lisa & Wansink, Brian, 2007. "Could Behavioral Economics Help Improve Diet Quality for Nutrition Assistance Program Participants?," Economic Research Report 6391, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    19. Ehmke, Mariah D. & Willson, Tina M. & Schroeter, Christiane & Hart, Ann Marie & Coupal, Roger H., 2009. "Obesity Economics for the Western United States," Western Economics Forum, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 0(Number 2), pages 1-13.

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    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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